An unequal opportunity structure.

PositionEducational opportunities for Arabs in Israel

The school, in which the educational process unfolds, is affected by three players at three different levels: parents, the municipal authority -- responsible for the school at the local level -- and the Ministry of Education and the central-government establishment. These players leave their imprint on the three main actors in the school: administration, faculty, and students.

The opportunity structure in Israel's education system is unequal. At the countrywide level. there is inequality of opportunities between students in the Jewish sector and their Arab counterparts. This inequality is also manifested at the local level; inequality of opportunities is the rule within the Arab sector itself, i.e., between private Arab schools and public schools, which include Arab state schools that belong to municipal authorities and the Ministry of Education. Another manifestation of unequal opportunity at the local level is the existence of two main scholastic "majors" or specializations in Arab state schools: one that enrolls a small number of students and leads to a good matriculation certificate, and another that serves most students and confers a graduation diploma at best. This disparity perpetuates itself on the basis of parents' socioeconomic status and level of education.

The disparity between the Arab and Jewish sectors, particularly the Ashkenazi sector, is vast. This is reflected rather clearly in the percentage of Arabs among university students in Israel. By the same token, an analysis of the various relationships underscores the gauntlet that Arab students must run from first grade until the matriculation exams. The last stage, that of high school, where students prepare and are screened for the matriculation exams, is especially problematic.

If we add to all these factors the systematic inequality, to the Arabs' disadvantage, in the allocation of education resources by the central establishment, we find that the lack of success of most Arab students in the education system, especially in gaining access to the academic majors that confer matriculation certificates worthy of the name, reflects the inferior status of the Arab community in Israel. This record is clear evidence of the weak influence of Arabs in Israel on countrywide decision-making in matters concerning them, including education issues.

Summing up, the conditions under which the Arab education system operates at the countywide level, particularly in secondary schooling, have the effect of preserving the disparity between Jews and Arabs, both in educational achievements and in socioeconomic status. The situation at the local level, i.e., disparities among Arab citizens themselves, is a function of the situation at the countrywide level and also complements it in the trend toward which it works. In other words, the way the disparity is maintained at the countrywide level affects the ways it is maintained at the local level. The intention of using specializations and tracking to exclude all but a minority in Israel from academic studies is perceptible not only on the countrywide level but also within the Arab sector itself in the...

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